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Subway, underground, metro, etc. - UniLang

Subway, underground, metro, etc.

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Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby Youngfun » 2014-09-23, 14:51

Are all these terms understood by English speakers?
What's the term used in your area?
Which one do you think it's a more neutral term?

I was inspired by this thread where the user Tara used the term "metro".
When I learned that this word is used in English, I checked a Chinese dictionary that said that metro is a French loanword, and refers to the subways in Europe, such as Paris, Rome, etc.
But then i was surprised to see that this term is also used in the US, e.g. the Washington Metrorail, more often called Metro.
It's also used as the English term in non-English speaking countries, such as Tokyo Metro and Shanghai Metro (Tara is from Shanghai so she is more familiar with the term metro).
But aside from proper names, would you use metro as a common term?

Here in Beijing the only English term used is subway. That's also the term that I learned as the standard American English term.

At school in Italy, where strictly British English is taught, they taught us the term underground, which seems to be used only in London... (aka The Tube)

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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby linguoboy » 2014-09-23, 14:59

Here in Chicago, we generally call our municipal system "the el" since the lines are elevated. Only two of them run underground and then only in the downtown area. I sometimes use "subway" to refer specifically to those portions.

"Metra" is the name of the commuter light rail system, so "metro" would probably be misunderstood as a reference to that. Many people refer to either system as "the train" and--as odd as it sounds--I've even heard people say "the bus" when referring to Chicago Transit Authority trains, since the same agency has responsibility for municipal bus lines.
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby Koko » 2014-09-23, 22:54

I don't know where there are subways/metros in BC near me. Vancouver has the skytrain and I haven't seen one in Washington where I've been, so I don't know how I'd refer to it.
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby loqu » 2014-09-23, 23:39

linguoboy wrote:I've even heard people say "the bus" when referring to Chicago Transit Authority trains, since the same agency has responsibility for municipal bus lines.

I love those linguistic phenomena whose name I don't know. In my home city the contrary happens: since the bus line is operated by the same company that used to run the tramways until the 1950s, people say they're taking the tramway when they are actually taking the bus.
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby basica » 2014-09-24, 2:23

In Sydney at least we don't generally use these terms (subway, underground etc) as there isn't a lot of track work underground. Mostly people just talking about catching a train to/from the city. Occasionally people may also refer to which line they catch, but generally speaking it's just about "the train".
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby linguoboy » 2014-09-24, 2:59

loqu wrote:
linguoboy wrote:I've even heard people say "the bus" when referring to Chicago Transit Authority trains, since the same agency has responsibility for municipal bus lines.

I love those linguistic phenomena whose name I don't know.

It's a form of semantic extension: the meaning of an existing word is extended to cover a distinct new or existing meaning.

Retronym is the name for a new term coined to distinguish the original meaning. For instance, acoustic guitar after electric guitars became widespread. But I don't really know what to call it when the original meaning becomes completely obsolete. For instance, the predecessor of the refrigerator was the icebox, which actually contained ice in order to keep food cool. When refrigerators became common, some people kept on calling them "iceboxes" even as actual iceboxes disappeared, and the element survives in compounds which date back to the pre-refrigerator era (e.g. "icebox cookies").
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby Koko » 2014-09-24, 4:18

basica wrote:In Sydney at least we don't generally use these terms (subway, underground etc) as there isn't a lot of track work underground. Mostly people just talking about catching a train to/from the city. Occasionally people may also refer to which line they catch, but generally speaking it's just about "the train".

I think we'd do this too. In fact, if I forgot "metro" if I were to take a subway in England, I'd probably say train; not much a difference anyways.
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby linguoboy » 2014-09-24, 14:45

Koko wrote:I think we'd do this too. In fact, if I forgot "metro" if I were to take a subway in England, I'd probably say train; not much a difference anyways.

If I were in London, I'd call it "the Underground" because this is essentially a proper name to me. Just like I call it the "Metro" in DC and Barcelona, the "Métro" in Paris, the "T" in Boston, "BART" in San Francisco, and "MetroLink" in St Louis. In New York, I say "subway" and in Germany "U-Bahn", even when speaking English.
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby dEhiN » 2014-09-30, 15:01

linguoboy wrote:It's a form of semantic extension: the meaning of an existing word is extended to cover a distinct new or existing meaning.

Retronym is the name for a new term coined to distinguish the original meaning. For instance, acoustic guitar after electric guitars became widespread. But I don't really know what to call it when the original meaning becomes completely obsolete. For instance, the predecessor of the refrigerator was the icebox, which actually contained ice in order to keep food cool. When refrigerators became common, some people kept on calling them "iceboxes" even as actual iceboxes disappeared, and the element survives in compounds which date back to the pre-refrigerator era (e.g. "icebox cookies").

Interesting!

Here in Toronto we call it the subway almost exclusively. But then again, most of our track is underground. We say the train for traditional trains.

Here we have the TTC - Toronto Transit Commission - which does all public transit in Toronto. So they have subways, buses, streetcars, and an RT - Rapid Transit - line. We also have the GO (Government of Ontario) Train, which is an inter-city train system for the province, and VIA Rail, which is our national train system.

I've heard subway and metro used a lot. I don't often hear underground, and I really only hear Tube used in reference to London's Tube.
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby Youngfun » 2014-10-02, 6:29

linguoboy wrote:It's a form of semantic extension: the meaning of an existing word is extended to cover a distinct new or existing meaning.

Wikipedia seems to call them "misnomers" and list them under the category "Older name retained".

Similarly, in Rome the trams were also managed by Met. Ro. company (which sounds like "metro" and it's a portmanteau meaning "Metropolitane di Roma" :lol: ) and some people started to call the trams "metro"...

"Tin foil" seems like a worldwide misnomer. It also occurs in Italian "carta stagnola" and in Chinese 锡纸.

dEhiN wrote:subways, buses, streetcars, and an RT - Rapid Transit - line.

What's the difference between subway and Rapid Transit? Many cities in the world call their subway system "Rapid Transit".
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Here in Beijing the Line 13 is almost completely on the surface, yet it's still called 地铁 (an abbreviation of 地下铁路 - underground railway). But in Beijing people also use 城铁 (city railway) which could be a calque from metropolitan rail (metro).

Curiously, Beijing is the only city in China to use "subway' in the English name. Other Chinese cities use "metro" or "rapid transit".
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Wikipedia uses both rapid transit and metro system as neutral terms.
But I'll continue using subway in English, since it seems the most widely understood term.
Rapid transit is too long and formal.
Underground seems too London-specific.
Metro doesn't seem to be understood by all English speakers despite its widespreadness.

Poor London underground... they opened the world's first subway system, but nobody else followed their name "underground".

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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby ireland » 2015-01-25, 18:23

In Ireland's capital, we do not have underground rail. At most we have trains going under a tunnel, but not actually underground.

There are different modes of transport here, and we would use the LUAS for the LUAS and the DART for the DART. For railway links between cities, we would just say the "train".

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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby dEhiN » 2015-02-04, 3:55

Youngfun wrote:
dEhiN wrote:subways, buses, streetcars, and an RT - Rapid Transit - line.

What's the difference between subway and Rapid Transit? Many cities in the world call their subway system "Rapid Transit".

Hey just saw this! So here in Toronto our subway is predominantly underground (with some sections being ground level or even above ground), and each car is long with I think 4 pairs of doors. The RT is solely above ground, riding on an elevated track, and each car is short with 2 pairs of doors. RT cars are also smaller in width. I think both the RT and the subway have 4 or 5 cars attached in a line, but due to the size differences between the cars, the RT looks a lot smaller than the subway.

Here are some examples of our subways:
*Note: We recently started getting new trains that are seamless from front to back. Half of the system uses them, while the other half uses the old trains. The old trains have the traditional cars.
Outside view of new subway
Outside of old subway
Inside view of new subway
Inside view of old subway


And our RT trains:
Outside view
Inside view
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby Varislintu » 2015-02-04, 7:27



Does anybody else in the world have the seating arrangement like the Helsinki metro? With pairs of seats facing each other?

I recently moved close to a metro station, and for the first time in my life, the metro is my main commute vehicle. But now that I've used it a lot, I have to say this seating arrangement is unfortunate. There is just no way not to awkwardly stare at someone in the face. Because, even if you look "out" the window, the large window panes always reflect someone's face directly in your line of sight. So you either stare at them directly, or feel even creepier staring at them covertly via a reflection. If you look lower, you're basically staring at people's crotches. :doh:

Luckily the metro is at least fast, so the awkward doesn't last teribly long.
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby IpseDixit » 2015-02-04, 14:31

Varislintu wrote:


Does anybody else in the world have the seating arrangement like the Helsinki metro? With pairs of seats facing each other?


Vienna, Paris.

Munich and Frankfurt have mixed arrangements that includes also that one if I remember correctly.

Maybe also Milan, Barcelona and Madrid have mixed arrangements but I can't remember.

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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby Varislintu » 2015-02-04, 18:21

IpseDixit wrote:Vienna, Paris.

Munich and Frankfurt have mixed arrangements that includes also that one if I remember correctly.

Maybe also Milan, Barcelona and Madrid have mixed arrangements but I can't remember.


Thanks! Sheesh, I've even been in the Vienna metro, but didn't remember how the seats were...

The upside of facing pairs of seats is that there will be more seats in a car, but it's quite awkward. I guess they can't have them all face the same way, like in a bus, because the cars go in both directions. Although I think I'd rather sometimes have to have my back towards the direction I'm heading in than have to struggle with where to put my eyes. :P
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby IpseDixit » 2015-02-04, 18:36

I think the best arrangement is the one where seats run along the aisle like in the Tube (and many other undergrounds as well). More than the awkward stares (which apparently I'm quite good at avoiding since I've never thought of nor perceived all those problems that you are describing) the thing that I dislike about that face-to-face arrangement is that you have to disturb other people to sit in / get out of the seat which is on the side of the window.

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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby Car » 2015-02-05, 13:18

IpseDixit wrote:
Varislintu wrote:


Does anybody else in the world have the seating arrangement like the Helsinki metro? With pairs of seats facing each other?


Vienna, Paris.

Munich and Frankfurt have mixed arrangements that includes also that one if I remember correctly.

Maybe also Milan, Barcelona and Madrid have mixed arrangements but I can't remember.

Hannover has only those in its older ones, but only a few in its newer ones. Hamburg also uses that system.

That system also is advantageous for people who can't walk well. Quite ironical if you consider that Hannover's new metros are called "suitable for the disabled". Well, they are - if you're sitting in a wheel chair.
Please correct my mistakes!

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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby Varislintu » 2015-02-05, 14:33

Car wrote:That system also is advantageous for people who can't walk well.


Oh, how's that? :|
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby ling » 2015-02-05, 16:04

In Taipei it was called the MRT for about the first 10 or so years of operation, but later they began rebranding it was "Taipei Metro" or "Metro Taipei". Not really clear which it's supposed to be, but then again this is Taiwan and the powers that be remain unclear on the concept of "official international names" and branding in general. We in the expat community tend to call it the MRT.
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Re: Subway, underground, metro, etc.

Postby Car » 2015-02-05, 17:46

Varislintu wrote:
Car wrote:That system also is advantageous for people who can't walk well.


Oh, how's that? :|

Because it's easier to hold on to seats as they're more inside the metro as opposed to the sides.
Please correct my mistakes!


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